This sweet violin that I have adopted from China arrived in my hands this morning! Before we left California, the questions I asked myself every day for half a year was, “Do I take my violin or viola with me? Or do I rent one?” Then my friends asked me the same questions. I went back and forth about what to do. I did not really want to use my carryon on the airplane for an instrument, but I knew that renting might be costly. I did find out that I could rent a student violin for almost $50 / month, and I was considering doing that until I read a post on the English Forum about an eBay shop in China which ships student violins for not too much money. I read the many reviews of this shop on eBay and decided that I could give it a try.
I bid on several instruments before I won one for $160. The shop gives you choices to upgrade, so I went with a fitted bridge and the kind of strings I like. Those upgrades plus shipping pushed me up to $291. The violin came with a bow and rosin and a case, so this total cost, musicians know, is peanuts. Really cheap.
My hopes: the violin would arrive near the beginning of the shipping estimate and that it would be playable and an acceptable instrument for the year.
My fears: The seller said that if the packaging looked too damaged to not sign for it and have it returned. I was afraid that might be the case. I was also afraid that the sound post might have come dislodged which would take me some extra time to take it to a luthier to have it reset.
My hopes seem to be realized, and my fears were for naught! It seems good enough for a year’s worth of tunes.
Now about Customs. Two days ago I got a letter in the mail that said I needed to let Customs know the value of the shipment. I emailed them the invoice, but then I also sent them a printed copy and filled out the form which I had to sign. I thought it might be a few days before it would appear, but then, the violin came to my flat while I was out yesterday. I had to go pick it up at the post office this morning. (I like the post office here – a blog post of its own coming.)
I knew I would have to pay at least the VAT (Value Added Tax which is only 8% in Switzerland. Germany’s is 19%, for example. Austria is 20%.) The bill came to Fr. 61.65 (about $68). I counted out my Francs and Rappen and after I got home, I deciphered the charges on the Customs form.
First, they counted the shipping cost in the total. Of course.
Payment of Duty for Zone 2: Fr. 24.10
Viewing/Storage/Value Clarification: Fr. 13.00
Import Tax (VAT) Fr. 24.55
Total Spent (approximately): $359
If I can sell it for Fr. 400 at the end of the year, then I will be happy. If not, I can donate it somewhere. I could not rent one for a year for that price.
I have set it up and tuned it, and the strings are stretching. I rosined the bow (this takes a little while the first time). And now I have an hour or so before I must not play my musical instrument during the lunch hour. Whee!